Saturday 7 April 2018

All we can do is play for pride and honour on derby day

The 176th Manchester derby has the potential to be one of our most humiliating and painful - whilst for City its the dream scenario of a title win on their own territory against their fiercest rivals. For them, this is more than merely than bragging rights  - it could represent a once in a lifetime opportunity.

The Premier League title awaits, and Pep Guardiola's side only need one more win to seal the crown that has been all but theirs since Christmas. It would only merely be delaying the inevitable, but never have the derby day traditions of honour, pride and passion mattered more in this one. Neither set of fans will ever forget THAT 2011-12 season for entirely contrasting reasons, but we'll never be allowed to live things down if they win the title on derby day. Their fans - already unbearable - would never let us hear the end of it and that's a prospect not one of us want.  We simply can't allow that to happen, and the mission is simple: stop them.
 When you need something special to stop a team that have been close to unbeatable all season, what better manager than Jose - the ultimate spoiling tactician and a man who will be hell bent on pooping Pep's party by any means possible. What price of the boss to come up with another tactical masterclass that we've seen so many times before and leave the hosts champagne on ice...that would be great to see!

The one small sliver of hope for us is that, with their Champions League quarter final second leg with Liverpool on the horizon, Pep has hinted at the possibility of fielding a 'weakened' team against United. Despite the fact they're 0-3 down, Pep has seemingly prioritised Tuesday night's tie as they attempt to pull off what would rank as one of the greatest European turnarounds of all time. Whether its an attempt to take on Jose at his own mind games, or whether indeed City actually have what could be considered a 'second string' side given their staggering resources and strength in depth remains to be seen. But it could represent an avenue of hope - however improbable - for the team.

It's been a while since United have gone into a tie as rank outsiders and genuine underdogs, but that's genuinely the case here - everyone is expecting City to win and anything we can get from this tie is a bonus. As Reds, that may be a bitter pill to swallow and an unfamiliar feeling but - as much as we don't want to admit it - this is a City side that have swept all before them this season. United's 40-match unbeaten Old Trafford run was bookended by 2-1 home defeats to City - the latter of which, in our last meeting in December, in truth could have been more. There would be no disgrace in finishing second to one of the most dominant champions the land has ever seen. The gaping chasm they have over not only us but everyone else tells you everything you need to know.

I can't see anything other than a comprehensive City win, but all I want to see from my team is to play for the shirt and do their best for the badge. That's all you can ask.

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